Catholic Hospital Agrees to Perform Sterilization

A Catholic hospital in San Francisco performed a tubal ligation for a woman who was scheduled to have a c-section at the facility. Originally, Mercy Medical Center, a subsidiary of Dignity Health, denied Rachel Miller’s request because sterilizations are forbidden by the US bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

Miller would have been forced to travel 160 miles to another facility covered by her insurance. The American Civil Liberties Union threatened Mercy with a lawsuit on the grounds that denying Miller the procedure amounted to sex discrimination. The hospital told the San Francisco Chronicle that “in general, it is not our practice to provide sterilization services at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities,” but it would do so “on a case-by-case basis where a formal review by a committee of physicians and others permit the procedure.”

Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU of Northern California wrote in a blog post: “While this is certainly a win for Rachel, there remains a clear conflict between the best interests of patients and the directives of the Catholic hospital system” that “should not be allowed to claim religion as an excuse to discriminate or deny important health care.”

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